Scenes from the life of a white-fronted goose

Things aren't easy for white-fronted geese

They've hardly fledged when they have to flee the winter and start a 6,000-kilometre journey. During the arduous flight they constantly run the risk of being shot down by people shooting game. And even when they have reached their protected winter quarters here on the Lower Rhine their lives here are not a bed roses. Other species of geese, such as Egyptian and Canada geese, or ruddy shelducks are increasingly competing with them for food. They are the descendants of escapees from captivity and are rapidly increasing. And to cap it all, thoughtless people unfortunately get too close to the geese and startle them with their curiosity. That costs precious energy and forces the geese to graze for longer than they already do. Every day they have to eat two-thirds of their bodyweight for as long as the brief winter daylight lasts. The goose concert when they fly into the waters where they sleep is particularly impressive. Anyone who has ever watched the groups of loudly calling geese when they fly onto their pastures and sleeping places senses that they feel at home in the Lower Rhine. Because, all in all, life is good for geese here. The birds are safe from being shot here in the Bird Protection Area on the Lower Reaches of the Lower Rhine. Not even farmers scare them from the precious winter seeds because the Land of North Rhine-Westphalia compensates them for feeding damage. On the pastures and meadows, the feathered winter guests find a rich variety of food in spite of competition. The calm Old Rhine branches and other bodies of water are safe sleeping places. And, above all, they are always with their families. In fact, parents and young remain together for the whole winter and even during the return journey to their breeding areas. Surviving in winter is something that has to be learned. Because, in spite of everything, life is not easy for white-fronted geese.

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